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Thursday, June 30, 2016

#Loverboy Cover Reveal

Dartmoor Book V
by Lauren Gilley

Coming Soon

The Lean Dogs MC has long been a haven for the outlaws, the rebels, the ill-adjusted, and the outright monsters of Knoxville, Tennessee. They are a dark, dangerous brand of misfit, etched with ink, splattered with blood, and vilified by the town they call home. The only laws they follow are the ones set down in the club charter by their leather-clad forefathers.
But some outlaws have secrets they can’t even share with their club brothers. The Lean Dogs call him “Tango,” but once upon a time, Kevin Estes went by “Loverboy.” It’s a past his club could never understand, one that’s going to kill him.
Loverboy is the fifth full-length installment in the Dartmoor Series and is NOT a standalone. It handles sensitive, potentially-triggering subjects, and is intended for MATURE audiences only.
Copyright © 2016 by Lauren Gilley

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Stranger Than

I'm rereading the late great Pat Conroy - Beach Music - for next month's book club meeting, and as usually happens when I read Conroy, he's got me wondering how much of an author's real life he writes into his novels. I feel sure the answer is: more than we think.

This morning, while I was holding the horses for the farrier, I started playing with AB's forelock. (It's so long and multi-colored!) I braided it several times, just playing around with it, and it struck me, suddenly, that I learned how to braid hair practicing on horses. Not on dolls or my friends, but on the manes and tails of horses. I taught myself to French braid my first horse Skip's tail when I was ten, and practiced until I got it right. Horses, in so many ways, have been a cornerstone of my life. My barn-based childhood shaped who I am today, in all its good, bad, heartbreaking, and lesson-learning glory. So it stands to reason that, even when I'm not writing about horses, the horse person in me is making herself known on the pages of my books.

My rabid attention to detail, for one. Missing the little things can be disastrous in the horse world. The first symptoms of sickness; the subtle tell that a skittish horse is about to spook through the roof; the way your outside leg keeps creeping forward and ruining your shoulder-in. In horse training, the more information you have about their pasts, the easier it will be to work around their collected traumas and establish a solid relationship. You can spend months trying to run to ground the source of a problem; just like humans, horses are the products of their pasts. And you know how I love turning a character's life over a page at a time, flashbacks galore.

I think a list of all the ways my real life weaves between the cracks of my fiction would take up the whole first page of the blog. Because I don't base any of my characters on me (y'all, I'm boring, that would suck), and because I write about topics and places outside my daily sphere, it's easy for me to fall into the narrative that I'm writing nothing but fiction, that it's all fantasy. When really, none of it's fantasy. All of it's someone's version of the truth. I have trouble with those writing quotes that claim authors are liars - we're not. We're packaging the truth prettily. And, more than I realize, I package some of my own truth along the way.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Ian Aesthetic

Any time I get to write a character who is completely problematic, but loveable, I'm a happy author. The ones who walk the line between wicked and heartbreaking. The ones who hide their need for a hug beneath a dark exterior. What can I say, I like the complicated ones.

I put Ian in that category, and the last few chapters have been, let's say, difficult for the poor guy. Loverboy is Tango's story, but it's Ian's, too, and I look forward to my favorite anti-villain finding something to be happy about.

Ian's aesthetic is all grays, blacks, chromes, and high-end touches. I love the expensive, fashionable, androgynous edge he brings to the Dartmoor world. For sure a guilty pleasure character who wormed his way into the spotlight.

Friday, June 24, 2016

#FicPromptFriday 6/24/16 - Crush

This week’s #FicPromptFriday is a look toward the future.

6/24/16 – Crush

“Can you fix it, or not?”

Cal pushed his black-framed glasses up into his hair, further ruining the finger-combed blonde mess, and sent his older brother a flat look. “I can fix anything.”

Remy suppressed a sigh. “Right. Well-established. But I asked if you could fix this.”

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

20-Something Creatives in the Modern Age

"[R]ight now, see, at this very moment, we have a bandwagon rolling, I'm telling you. Every skinny little guy like me in New York who believes there's life on Alpha Centauri and got the shit kicked out of him in school and can smell a dollar is out there right this minute trying to jump onto it, walking around with a pencil in his shirt pocket, saying 'He's like a falcon, no, he's like a tornado, no, he's like a goddamned wiener dog.' Okay?

"And no matter what we come up with, and how we dress him, some other character with the same schtick, with the same style of boots and the same little doodad on his chest, is already out there, or is coming out tomorrow, or is going to be knocked off from our guy inside a week and a half."

- The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon

I'm challenging myself - starting this past weekend - to be a more active Instagrammer, and that means posting the books that I'm #currentlyreading. Right now I'm hooked on this book, and it's giving me all sorts of blog feels. Last night, I stayed up reading until I literally fell asleep and the Kindle slipped out of my hands and hit me in the face. I'm real exciting like that.

I've known for a long while now that I enjoy writing characters with creative habits, be they hobbies or professions, and I've found that I gravitate toward books featuring creative characters as a reader, too. I'd love to find some profound reasoning for this, but I think it's a simple case of searching for a reflection of self in our entertainment media of choice. That isn't always an acceptable habit when you're twenty-something, but it's authentic, and that's all any of us can be. As a twenty-something artist, I like reading about characters who are trying to align their dreams and realities; who occasionally let their heads tip back against the wall and sigh a tired sigh for the frustrated creative types who fret too much and sleep too little. And the magical part is, being twenty-something and frustrated isn't a new concept, but one that's held constant throughout the ages. Each generation likes to think they own the rights to youthful angst, but it's all one long unbroken story, told since time began, nothing but costume changes between centuries.

In The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, lead characters Sam and Joe are hopeful comic book artists trying to create the next Superman in 1939 Brooklyn. Faced with the challenges of originality, authenticity, and an industry seeking to reward the predictable and similar, their aspirations feel bold, but tenuous, dangling by the thread of outside approval, their individual voices hampered by an overreaching corporate voice. (This book also just screams of early Marvel comics, which I LOVE.)

It's a story that's played out in the lives of writers and artists for decades. But it isn't the only story anymore, and I feel immensely thankful to be a twenty-something creative at a time when the web allows us to create whatever the heck we want, and put it out there. Every once in a while, I just like to stop and feel grateful for that, for the way art is so available these days.

The point isn't that each voice is telling a story no one's ever heard before - our own real life stories are all reruns too, if we're honest - but that we have the chance to do something with the energy inside us. We get to tell our stories. And in my case, I'm so blessed and humbled to know that I have readers out there who want more. Seriously, you guys are the absolute best, and you make me excited to go to work each morning.

To keep up with my evolving TBR shelf, come see me on Instagram: @hppress.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Friday Update

Collective "TGIF," anyone?

I spent the first part of the week trying to shake off the virus or bug or whatever it was I caught last week, and thinking a lot about what I wanted to say about Orlando. So much has been said. It's my sincere hope that the outpouring of love, support, and aid from all corners reinforces that the problem is not our country at large, but the evil actions of a few terrifying individuals. Unfortunately, though, sometimes the evil, the cruel, and the hateful voices become the loudest. And the ones we focus on the most.

So I want to say this, just briefly: make the choice to be kind. Every day. Don't wait for something horrific to splash across the TV screen before you find tenderness, and compassion, and simple courtesy for the people around you. So often it seems like day-to-day life is burdened with the casual cruelties of people who, for lack of an understanding on my part, just seem to want to cause low-grade harm to others. Vicious gossip, workplace or personal sabotage, passive-aggressive or outright-aggressive comments about someone's appearance. All this ridiculous bullying. Just...why? Why does that give people pleasure? The world is scary enough as it is; just be kind. Be accepting. Walk-the-walk every day, not just when the news reminds us just how petty our small differences are.

Okay. Climbing off my soapbox now.

Onto personal Friday author notes:

If you follow me on FB, you've probably seen that I have a new WIP going on Wattpad: Dear Heart. It's a standalone romance that has nothing to with Dartmoor, and is, for me, a really fun change of pace. I love my Dartmoor kids, and I love the drama and excitement they bring with them, but I have this big soft spot for sweet, heartbreaking, friends-to-lovers stories about childhood friends. I've loved diving into this project; I feel like I'm really connecting with parts of my writing brain that have gone a little rusty the last year, and it's therefore really helping with Loverboy. I'm updating regularly, so check it out if you need something to tide you over until LB.

I've been a sort of absentee author on social media lately, but it's mostly because I'm writing like crazy, and also because summers are busy farm-wise. Most of the time, if it comes down to blogging/posting, or writing - I write instead. Which means that while I can't promise a mid-July release of LB just yet, I know I'll be done writing it by then, so thanks in advance for bearing with me!

I thought I had more notes, but, um, no. Back to work it is, then.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Half and Half

You know you're a writing nerd when reading for fun still manages to become an exercise in note-taking and craft reflection. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't like being so obsessive. I think writers have a responsibility to not merely maintain, but to strive always to be better, to set their sights too high, and risk falling, rather than be content to muddle through. Self-education is so important. Which is why even when I'm reading in my downtime, I select books from a variety of genres and try new authors, and even if I don't care for a book, I try to wring every drop of analysis from its pages.

This weekend, I read a book I did enjoy, thankfully, The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson.

Set in East Sussex in 1914, at the beginning of WWI, it follows a handful of characters throughout their small town daily lives. The novel is told with what I now think of as the standard English flair for grace, subtlety, and a word choice that manages to say as much with what is left out as with what is explicit on the page.

That's something I love so dearly about Austen's work, and something I've discussed with my brother at length - the way sometimes refraining from saying something is the boldest statement, or the cleverest. English literature, through the ages, has had a tendency toward the subtle, the sharp, and the resigned; its an echo of the culture that's seeped into the art.

I'm an English lit nerd, yes, but for me it's really important to read, study, understand, and then employ multiple narrative styles, in order to create a diverse, well-rounded book that manages to accomplish multiple things. I like using explicit language; I like bold, direct, brutal wording to make bold statements; but I like to use subtlety too.

There always seems to be this not-so-nice back-and-forth between genre fiction and literary fiction. Genre fiction accuses literary fiction of using "writing tricks," in place of plotting or story development. I'll be the first to admit that there are those rudderless books who spin off in tangents without direction. But I think it's a terrible mistake to write off literary fiction on an erroneous conclusion. Lit fic isn't about "tricks," but about finding creative, artistic, and aesthetically beautiful ways to describe characters and plot points in such a way that each scene becomes an art-piece all on its own. Sometimes a flower is just a flower, yes, but sometimes we want to sit a spell, and let our eyes trace every line of it.

At the end of the day, I think it's a dumb argument. Why can't a book be entertaining and beautiful? Why can't it be fun and touching? Why can't it be addictive and leisurely in its telling? I love genre fiction for its storytelling, its fun, its quirky character goodness. And I love literary fiction for its nuance. So when I write, I try to fuse the two. If I'm writing a frightening scene, I set it up like it's in a horror novel. Romantic scenes should feel romantic. Pastoral/world building scenes I always want to be literary. A touch of noir in those dead-of-night kitchen table scenes.

Because why the hell not?

I've got a foot in each camp. Half genre, half literary, zero apologies. Writing is art and it shouldn't be about strict labels and cliques.

Before I realized going indie was the absolute best decision, and I was still trying to get published via the traditional route, I pitched my novels as romance. Because in my mind, they were love stories, and that's where they fit. Not so, apparently. Everyone from agents, to editors, to RWA conference table-mates told me I wasn't writing romance. Because the story wasn't completely, tightly focused on just the couple and just their romantic development.

Well. Okay then.

I swapped to a "literary fiction" label and keep it to this day, because still, romance readers like to give me flak about not "focusing on the romance." Well...there's romance, yes. But sometimes we need to take a sec to appreciate Uncle Ablie's weapon collection. Or watch Ghost be everyone's exasperated dad.

I just think books should be fun, and heartbreaking, and rich, and real, and be full of love, and sex, and bad jokes, and quietly poignant character moments. I think they can be worlds unto themselves, and provide a variety of emotional experiences all in one place. I wish the writing world would quit worrying so much about page counts, and genre labels, and just worry about awesome stories. There are mountains of literature out there, and it's my job to read as much as I can, and learn how to be a better writer.

This has been my obnoxious writer moment of the day.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Fic Prompt Friday 6/3 - That Kind of Dad

#FicPromptFriday with Jordan Walker this week. He's my favorite Walker, and possibly my favorite among the characters I've written. Spoilers for the Walker Series and apologies in advance for typos.

6/3/16 – That Kind of Dad

Maybe she won’t notice, Jordan told himself, as he fitted his key in the lock. Maybe she would be bleary-eyed and tired from her day of writing and wouldn’t be able to see his bruise. It wasn’t that bad after all, Tam had said so. “Hmm, it’s not the worst I’ve seen,” he’d said, just a few minutes before, in the parking lot. “I’d get some ice on it, though.”